It’s a wonderful time of year to get outdoors and enjoy everything Mother Nature has to offer including the colourful foliage, cooler temperatures and of course our birds. While our summer visitors are long gone, we are busy preparing for our winter birds and the possibility of new visitors from more northern locales.

In addition to our chickadees, nuthatches and winter finches, owls are an absolute favourite of ours and many others. This is a great time of year to grab a friend or two, head out into the field and organize your own owl prowl and see what kind of species you can find here in the greater Ottawa area.

With that in mind, we thought we’d turn our attention to perhaps one of the most popular and abundant owl species here in our area, the barred owl. Follow along below as we break down where to find these majestic raptors, and how to identify them by both visual and audible cues.

Where to Find Barred Owls

Geographically speaking, these owls can be found across much of eastern North America from Texas across to Florida and all the way up into Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes. Moving west, they populate much of British Columbia and central portions of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Like all owls, the barred owl is most active under the night sky and are found in forested areas along waterways such as rivers.

Identification

Large and stocky in design, these owls sit right between the great horned owl and the barn owl with regards to size. Their colour pattern is a mottled brown and white with vertical brown bars on their undersides and horizontal brown bars across their upper breast, giving them their name.

These owls have large round heads without ear tufts and can be easily identified by their black eyes. Closely resembled species such as the great gray owl and the great horned owl both have yellow-coloured eyes, so be sure to have a good look at eye colour for an almost instant identification.

Vocals

Like many owls, barred owls are easier to hear than they are to see in the wild. Keep your ears open for their telltale call “whooo cooks for you” that is about as owl as it gets! This distinctive hooting call consists of eight or nine notes and can carry quite a distance through the woods.